The Chicago Police Department filed several charges against officer Robert Rialmo Wednesday, recommending the embattled officer be fired from the CPD for his role in the fatal shooting of Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier in December 2015.
The charges against Rialmo allege these violations: action or conduct impeding department efforts to achieve its policy and goals or bringing discredit upon the department; disobeying an order or directive; inattention to duty; incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of duty; and unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability found that the shooting of Jones and LeGrier was not within CPD policy and recommended that Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson refer Rialmo, 29, for termination.
Johnson, however, disagreed with COPA and said Rialmo’s actions were “justified and within department policy.” In April, a single member of the police board advanced Rialmo’s case to the full board. The initial status hearing is set for Dec. 4.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said termination procedures against Rialmo were automatically triggered when it was decided the board would hear Rialmo’s case, despite Johnson’s finding that Rialmo was justified.
The shooting of Jones and LeGrier was the first fatal shooting by a Chicago Police officer after the release of the Laquan McDonald video. Joel Brodsky, Rialmo’s attorney, has long maintained his client was being railroaded by the legal system as a “sacrificial lamb.”
Brodsky theorized that Rialmo’s potential termination was orchestrated by City Hall in the wake of the McDonald video coming to light and the teen’s family receiving a $5 million settlement from the city before a lawsuit was filed.
“This is Rahm Emanuel’s parting shot,” Brodsky said. “He got forced out of office because he couldn’t deliver another scalp after the McDonald fiasco and the $5 million payoff to keep it quiet, and the scalp he wanted was Rialmo’s and we didn’t give it to him. This was his parting ‘Screw you.’ That’s my opinion.”
Emanuel’s office did not comment on Brodsky’s characterization.
The department’s recommendation comes nearly three years after Rialmo shot and killed LeGrier and Jones.
Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, responded to 4710 W. Erie about 4:25 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2015 after LeGrier and his father made calls to police. The elder LeGrier had barricaded himself in his room with a 2-by-4 a few hours earlier, and he was awoken when his son tried to force his way inside.
Rialmo and LaPalermo were met at the door by Bettie Jones, the elder LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor. Rialmo said that, as the officers were on the small front porch to the property, the younger LeGrier came down the stairs and around the door with an aluminum baseball bat raised above his head. Rialmo said that he backpedaled off the porch and opened fire, killing both LeGrier and Jones, 55.
The charges brought against Rialmo do not mention LeGrier and focus largely on Jones’ death.
“Officer Robert Rialmo, Star No. 15588, without justification, used force likely to cause death or great bodily harm without a reasonable belief that such force was necessary when he fired his weapon one or more times in the direction of Bettie Jones, hitting Ms. Jones and causing her death,” Johnson wrote.
The department also cited Rialmo for “inattention to duty” and “incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of duty” for not being certified to carry a stun gun for nearly two years before the shooting.
The LeGrier estate sued Rialmo and the city, alleging wrongful death. At trial over the summer, several witnesses for the city testified that, even if Rialmo was equipped with a stun gun, it likely would have been ineffective at the time.
A jury initially awarded $1.05 million to the LeGrier family, but that was wiped out when jurors, effectively, said the shooting was justified. The LeGrier estate asked for a new trial, but they were denied last month.
The Jones estate also filed suit against the city, but settled for $16 million shortly before going to trial.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office opted to not bring criminal charges against Rialmo in connection with the deaths of Jones and LeGrier.
About two years after the shooting, Rialmo was involved in a fight at a bar on the Northwest Side and charged with battery. He was found not guilty earlier this summer, though COPA is still investigating the incident.
Earlier this summer, he was captured on video in another scuffle. The CPD’s Internal Affairs Division has opened an investigation.